Are you suffering from electric performance car indigestion? Symptoms include model bloat, two-plus-ton curb weights, an artificial sense of agility, and nauseating straight-line speed being a primary party trick. If so, talk to your family doctor about A290_ß. No, this isn’t one of those pharmaceutical ads you see on American TV. This is the Alpine A290_ß concept, a feisty-looking hot hatch that promises to be exactly the sort of remedy needed to cure the bloated performance EV blues.
[Editor’s Note: I always like it when we get to use weird characters in our headlines. – JT]
It’s been an odd few years for French performance cars, and we’re not out of the woods yet. Firstly, Renault Sport has been absorbed into Alpine. The last ever Renault Sport Car, the Megane RS Ultime, already debuted back in January. It’s a sad time for those of us who grew up with spicy RS-badged French hatchbacks as hero cars, from the funky OG Megane RS to the bonkers Clio V6, mostly because it feels like Renault is throwing away brand equity.
Secondly, the lithe Alpine A110 pictured above won’t live forever. Just like the rest of the automotive kingdom, Alpine will eventually need to go electric. Electric cars and lightweight fossil fuel-powered sports cars are currently at odds with each other, clean heft versus dirty agility. However, on the face of things, the Alpine A290_ß likely means we shouldn’t be worried.
The A290_ß looks a lot like the Renault 5 EV concept because that’s basically what it is. However, there are a few key differences. For a start, the A290_ß features all the loud accoutrements of a modern hot hatch. Vents in unusual places? Check. Prominent rear wing? Check. Canards? Erm, check. However, glance beyond the loudest add-ons and you’ll find all the visual hallmarks of a traditional hot hatch.
While the purple taillights will never be seen on a production car, this thing has rally lights, pumped arches, and a chunky body kit. Enormous alloy wheels with a retro square motif get Michelin rubber with 800-decibel tire stickers, a favorite of the tuning scene. The whole car is painted like a pinstriped panda, all satin black and white with blue and red flourishes. Put it all together, and the A290_ß looks like a high-top shoe, as a proper hot hatch should.
Hot hatch looks are all well and good, but they need to be backed up with hot hatch go. Remember the Chevrolet Sonic RS? Great-looking thing, but it could’ve used more fizz. While we don’t know how much power the Alpine A290_ß puts out, electric torque on the front axle has the possibility of enabling hectic front-wheel-peels. More importantly, multilink rear suspension promises a level of sophistication you don’t normally see in hatchbacks this small. Add in stiffer suspension all-round and four-piston Brembo brakes, and this electric hot hatch concept seems like it would chart well on the Scoville scale.
Move to the cabin and things take a turn toward the fictional. However, while most concept cars these days feature delusions of higher autonomy, the Alpine A290_ß gets staggered three-abreast seating with a central driving position, like you’d get in a McLaren F1. It’s shameless, blatant pandering, and goddammit, it works. Who wouldn’t want a tiny, center-steer hot hatch? While the roll bar, driving position, and literally everything else about the cabin is as likely to make production as the Space Needle is to grow legs and walk off, it shows a deeply-ingrained sense of fun. Robot, sod off. I’m here to drive.
As with any concept car, we’re looking at a future and not necessarily the future. However, for all intents and purposes, something like this will effectively be the next Renault Sport Clio, just going by a different name. Alpine claims that a production variant is on its way in 2024, which sounds like a fake year but is really just around the corner. The Alpine A290_ß seems like exactly the sort of small, nippy EV we need. Unfortunately, it probably won’t make it to America. While Alpine does plan on entering the U.S. market this decade, as evidenced by comments made by Renault’s CEO and a recent sponsorship deal with dealer group AutoNation for the Miami Grand Prix, it plans to do so with a series of crossover SUVs. Still, badger hard enough and good things might happen.
(Photo credits: Alpine)
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